When Jason Corbett, frontman of Vancouver post-punk phenoms ACTORS, left the restaurant industry after nearly 15 years, it was both an exciting and terrifying time. He was getting steady work as an up-and-coming record producer, enough to justify stepping away from his day job, but he knew that a venture in full-time music had no guarantees. Nightmares about the possibility of not making rent haunted him during his first year. Until this point, Corbett had always lived a “safe” and steady lifestyle and though he knew of many who dove into their callings headfirst and found success, he also talked to others who had taken the same risks and failed.
As it would seem, his flirtation with uncertainty paid off. For the last several years Corbett has been operating his own creative sanctuary, Jacknife Sound, getting steady music-production work while also writing, recording, and performing with his band ACTORS. Upon entering the 300-square-foot recording studio, you are greeted with a wall of slick, black guitars in various shapes. The room has a monochromatic black-on-white colour scheme accented by purposeful hints of red. The back of the room has three shelves wall-to-wall full of guitar pedals and a drumset sits tightly in the corner.
“When I moved into this studio, I took everything ‘music’ aside from vinyl out of my home,” Corbett says sitting in front of his iMac computer, a set of maybe four or five synthesizers to his left. Even Corbett himself fits the monochromatic vibe of the room, wearing a black shirt and blue jeans dark enough to be black in disguise. “This became the spot. When I’m here I can shut everything else off. When I’m home I can just be home and not be tempted to grab a guitar. I try to keep these things separate, otherwise it would be all-consuming.”
The walls of Jacknife Sound are decorated with records he produced for artists like SPECTRES, Gang Signs, Leathers, Art d’Ecco and Bootblacks, to name a few. Soon, these white walls will don ACTORS’ latest record Acts of Worship, the follow-up to his project’s highly successful 2018 debut, It Will Come to You. Both records were also produced by Corbett in this very room.
Corbett has been performing as a musician since he was 14-years-old. An open book, he shared stories of the crippling anxiety that haunted him for years after high school and numbing that with alcohol during his restaurant years, simultaneously chasing what he believed at the time to be the musical “dream,” a Hollywood-esque sensationalization. Quitting drinking and getting to the core of his anxiety through meditation are elements that ultimately led to not only personal growth but the budding success of his music career.
Around the time he quit drinking, Corbett began to teach himself how to produce with YouTube tutorials and a cracked version of Logic 8, gaining experience by doing free remixes for artists. This led him to producing singles, EPs, and eventually full-length records. These collaborations would have a deep impact on the way he produces ACTORS.
“[Working with other artists] is huge because when you’re working on your own stuff you can stay in a certain zone of what’s comfortable,” he says. “I’m always learning from all the different musicians that come in because everyone has their own perspective of how they do music or even how they communicate about music. for me it’s about keeping those receptors open and learning as much as possible.
“By the time I started recording ACTORS stuff I was done chasing the music industry or being on the radio or being ‘a success,’” Corbett continues. “Before ACTORS, I would say ‘What producer is gonna get my song on the radio? What’s gonna sell?’ It’s funny because when I shut that down and I started making music that was more honest and less judgemental — music that I wanted to hear — that’s when things started to pick up.”
It was a long journey to get to this point, but Corbett now lives in a healthy space and it seems that, though ACTORS has already toured the world and already has a devout fanbase, his career is only now really getting started. Finding honesty seems to be the core of Corbett’s success. Not only honesty in the music he creates but honesty in himself and what he wants out of life.
“There’s this constant desire for being accepted and loved and wanted, I think we all want that,” he says. “That’s kind of where I write from. Not every song I write is autobiographical but they all start with a residual feeling from a time and a place and a person and I think that’s part of what keeps that honest. I was in a band years ago where I had a stage name and a character I was playing and that helped me feel less vulnerable. With ACTORS, everything happens very organically. We can just be ourselves. A lot of goth or post-punk bands might feel like they have to be dark and brooding but I’d rather just connect with my audience. It’s tiring putting on a facade.”